These concepts although named “Reverse” are more useful in inculcating a proper environment for employees to engage well. a) Reverse brainstorming b) reverse mentoring.
Just opposite – but equally powerful??
Have you come across two people just opposite in character, but giving the same result in any given situation?
Consider this puzzle;
You have made a mistake of disrespecting the king and got locked up in a prison. The King knowing you as an intelligent executive, wanting to give you an opportunity to escape if you are really that intelligent;
The test is this;
You have two roads starting from your cell one leading to ‘heaven’ means you can escape the prison and have better amenities in life to enjoy and the other leading to a ‘hell’ meaning you will suffer in a worst prison afterwards. You do not know which road leads where. There are two guards placed in the cell. Each of them knows which road leads where. The only problem is that, one of them will always lie and other one will always tell the truth. You do not know who speaks truth and who lies. With all these conditions in place, the king challenges you to escape if you can, by asking only one question to one of the guards standing there.
Finding it difficult to escape? Effectively it means, your one question to two directly opposite people (One Arichandran and one liar) should fetch you the same answer!!
How is it possible? Think over it while we go through some management concepts which are directly opposite in nomenclature but equally powerful. Don’t worry. We will come back to answer by the end of this article.
You might be aware of commonly known management concepts like brainstorming and mentoring. The modern schools of thoughts in management contain references (may be old wine in new bottle?) to reverse brainstorming and reverse mentoring. We will see what are they in short and answer ourselves whether they are equally powerful as that of their opponents;
It is the same like brain storming with some small differences as stated below;
In a brain storming process you have a core issue in hand and leave that to a group of individual to generate as many numbers of ideas as they can to solve the issue. At this stage the participants will not constrain themselves with the practicality, viability, permissibility, fear of being cranky etc., their intention is to create as many ideas as possible within the given time; nothing more. The next phase is going in detail and short-listing a few implementable ideas.
In a reverse brain storming, you start with the issue in hand and leave the team with a task of generating ideas to worsen the situation. It throws up a lot of areas how the problem can be actually created. In the next phase of going in detail and short-listing the ideas for implementation, you will really analyse, whether you have any serious cause of concern listed in the first phase and dig deeper to find a solution to solve the issue.
Take for example; if the organisation is starving for orders and you leave a cross functional team of individuals in a reverse brainstorming session to generate ideas “how to reduce order booking?”
Some of the ideas that come out may be…
- “Don’t quote to the customer in time”
- “If he is an existing customer, don’t attend service calls”
In the second phase of detailing and screening the ideas, if you dig deep into the first idea listed above;
Q: “Are we really having a situation like we don’t quote in time?”
A: “No. Not intentionally, But some times we may miss the schedule.”
Q: “What kind of situations we may miss to quote in time”
A: “May be in the month-end, or budget times when all of us are busy chasing numbers”
Q: “But what happens to the internal checks – Will the supervisors not note it?”
A: “They will also be busy that time and by the time we notice it, it will be too late to take any corrective action”
Q: “Then why can’t we have something like a ‘Order enquiry register software’ and make it compulsory that all preliminary enquiries are saved on that with target date of response and system reminders are sent to the concerned with escalation levels.
A: “Yes, it is a good idea”
So, if you look at the above example, a reverse brainstorming brings out a system lacuna, and digs out the ways and means how it can happen and finally, the right methodology to be implemented is arrived at. More often reverse brainstorming helps us foreseeing future problems so that we have necessary back up arrangements well in advance.
By the way, reverse brainstorming is not really a new concept; Vaccines are invented by duping the ‘antigens’ the real viruses carry. If you really want to kill a particular virus (problem), you need to know how to create it…
We all know what mentoring is and in what direction it applies. Typically in organisations, young executives are paired to successful, wiser, experienced senior professionals as their mentors and the senior professional will impart wisdom and share his knowledge with the junior executive. This is a personal development technique organisations use to inculcate a learning culture. Not necessarily the mentor and mentee are from the same department or function.
In a reverse mentorship, the younger executive will adopt a senior professional to develop him in modern technologies, modern management concepts etc., so that the senior is enhancing his vision on those new areas.
For example, handling the communication gadgets, finding anything you want out of the social media are the skills of the younger generation which the seniors may find it difficult to adopt.(There are good exceptions to this but in general youngsters are more tech savvy now a days). Needless to mention the benefits one gets out of these technological advancements if properly used. So when the youngster mentor develops the senior, he can impart all these knowledge to him and in a way it benefits both.
For the seniors, they are not only learning these technologies/knowledge in specific areas from the younger generation, they also get closure to them and understand the dynamics of handling the modern age generation which in turn helps them in motivating and retaining their younger colleagues. They understand the cultural diversity and adopt themselves to face the same. For the youngsters, they have to do a lot of homework to keep the phase up as essentially the senior executives are tougher to handle by virtue of their age, experience, and professional and emotional maturity. As it is a process of exchange of thought they also extract enough of knowledge from their mentees. In a conventional mentoring it will be more of a one way communication rather than exchange of thoughts due to personality blocks. In this form it will be real exchange of wisdom and knowledge.
Again this is also not totally new to us; we know how Lord “Muruga” had mentored his dad “Easwar”
Hope you would now agree that just opposites can deliver the same or even more powerful results.
Coming back to our puzzle, any guess what could be the one question which can save you?
If your question to any one of the guard is “What will be the way the other guard will show me if I ask him the way to ‘heaven’?” the answer will be the same.
If the man you have questioned happened to be the ‘truth speaking’ one, he will show his fingers in the ‘hell’ direction, because, knowing fully well his liar friend will only show the hell route if you check with him the direction to heaven.
If the person you have questioned happened to be the liar, then also you will be shown the ‘hell’ direction because he knows his truth speaking friend will rightly show the heaven direction; but he being a liar, will show you the opposite.
So, choosing the opposite direction, regardless of the guard whom you have questioned you can just escape.
Hope you understand… Enjoy reading…